Do You Learn To Paint by Painting Finger Nails?

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — “Yadira has always been involved with painting. When she was little she would spend hours sitting at the dining room table painting sheets of paper with her little art set.” That’s what her grandmother told me, because I didn’t know her back then.

Yadira now makes her living as a manicurist. “Look at my catalog. I have samples of all my work,” she says. She has photos of nails of all colors, with very complicated and beautiful designs. Some she does from her imagination, others she copies from magazines.

In the living room of her house she has a space set aside for work, complete with modern equipment brought by her parents from abroad.

Her parents were, of course, the ones who got her interested in pursuing training as an art instructor before they immigrated to the United States.

“Yadira, you have the education, talent and the vocation. Why didn’t you continue with a career in the arts?” a friend asked her.

“Life has led me to along this other path,” she replied without conviction. “When my mother and father left, I stumbled on doing nails, and ever since then I’ve doing pretty well. I’m not short of money. Plus, it’s a lot of fun doing this kind of work.”

Applying fake nails brings in fairly high incomes to young Cubans these days. It costs about 15 CUC (16.50 usd) to put them on initially and then 3 to 5 CUC weekly or biweekly to maintain them or change the design.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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One thought on “Do You Learn To Paint by Painting Finger Nails?

  • One of the first people I met in Cuba is a manicurist. Prior to becoming a manicurist, she was a secretary to a Minister (one of five) and lived well by Cuban standards. However, as this posts states, she has been able to live much better as a manicurist. Ironically, most of her clients who can afford the latex nails with the fancy designs that costs 15 cuc for both hands and another 10 cuc for the pedicure are either jineteras or women who receive remittances from abroad. She also has a few clients who are the wives and daughters of high-ranking government officials. The majority of her clients, however, are everyday Cuban women who just want their naural nails trimmed and painted. This only costs 50 pesos Cuban. She earns roughly $150 per month. When she worked for the Castros she earned about $15 plus a few perks like a driver when she worked late or monthly free passes to Casa de la Musica or once-a-year freebie to Varadero. As a manicurist she can pay to do all of these things with her own money and more. Plus, she gets to have ‘extranjeros’ as friends! When she worked for the Minister that would have been impossible.

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